“The Christmas Dinner is on our minds twelve months a year,” says Ben Harvey, a Katonah resident and co-leader of the annual celebration that is held on December 25 at on Valley Road.
As the summer heats up, organizers are moving forward with a diverse group of volunteers to plan and prepare for the all-volunteer dinner that serves 300 people in need from all over Westchester County.
Many guests who attend would otherwise be alone on Christmas.
“There are many new opportunities to volunteer and donate in the weeks before and after the dinner,” Harvey says. Thirteen team captains—many of whom are returnees from last year—contribute their various talents in areas such as fundraising, food preparation, decorations, entertainment and new this year, recycling.
The effort to put the “green” into Christmas will be seen in recycling stations where items like plastic, foil and paper will be accounted for, and information distributed to educate guests and volunteers about recycling. Dinner scraps will be composted.
The event has touched the lives of thousands of people since its inception in 1994, says Licia Sandberg, Harvey's co-leader. Each guest, who is invited from shelters and agencies throughout Westchester, is treated to a warm welcome, a scrumptious dinner, winter clothing and holiday gifts.
She explains that the experience has been as meaningful for the hundreds of volunteers as it has been for the guests. “Children befriend children, volunteers befriend guests and the environment is so warm,” she says. “The sense of community that this dinner brings about is remarkable—our town can be very proud of it.”
Boo Fumagalli, Bedford's town clerk, will put her administrative expertise to work again this year as coordinator of guests and transportation.
“The feeling is hard to explain,” she says. “To give to others on Christmas Day is wonderful—last year’s dinner was the best Christmas I’ve ever had.”
She says that even one hour of volunteer help would be welcomed, to assist with everything from sorting gifts to setting or cleaning up.
Leftovers from the delicious feast are packed for the guests to take home or are donated to food pantries. Even the artwork, provided by the Katonah Art Center, will be created from recycled materials.
The planners rely on local businesses, like Katonah Paint and Hardware for supplies, and the Bedford Post Inn, who offered forty pies last year, the Bedford Golf and Tennis Club which sends a chef, and many others. They say that contributions from merchants, along with generous individual donations, make it possible to transform the gym at St. Mary’s into a magical place.
Harvey and Sandberg shared with Patch a list of what is currently needed for the 2011 dinner:
- New toys and gifts
- Gently used clothing
- Financial support
Organizers say it's a great opportunity for boy and girl scout troops to participate; the complete list of volunteer opportunities can be found on the event's website; you can also visit their Facebook page for more information.
for highlight's of last year's dinner.